Promoter Bob Arum says he knew a deal between Tyson Fury and Oleksandr Usyk was inevitable once Turki Alalshikh entered the picture.
Talks between Fury, the WBC titlist from England, and Usyk, the unified WBO, WBA, IBO, IBF champion from Ukraine, were repeatedly stymied in the past year, with Fury eventually pivoting to a fight with ex-UFC heavyweight champion Francis Ngannou; they fight this Saturday in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.
But Fury and Usyk eventually announced their fight last month, and depending on Fury’s outing against Ngannou, that fight, according to multiple reports, could take place either on Dec. 23 or in January.
Arum, whose Top Rank co-promotes Fury, said he knew Fury vs. Usyk would finally be signed after Saudi Arabia’s Alalshikh, Chairman of The General Entertainment Authority and head of Riyadh Season, came on board. Arum cited Alalshikh’s “direct” access to Saudi Arabia’s state funds as a key reason why he felt so confident. Alalshikh’s GEA is also responsible for Fury Vs. Ngannou.
“I think all credit goes to Prince Turki and his organization because he was able to secure this fight,” Arum told Fight Hub TV. “He’s a no-nonsense guy who directly controls the sovereign fund in Saudi Arabia for entertainment. So, the fighters knew that once they signed contracts, the money would be there and they weren’t dealing with any middlemen.
“Once Prince Turki was in the picture, I was convinced that this fight was going to happen because like Tyson’s experience in the Ngannou fight, when he signed it, most of his purse was already in his bank account. It’s no nonsense and it’s good on his business and I was confident that this fight was going to happen once Prince Turki for Saudi Arabia decided that that’s the fight that the Kingdom wanted.”
The signing of Fury-Usyk comes amid the fallout of another intriguing heavyweight bout that was expected to take place in Saudi Arabia involving former titlists Deontay Wilder and Anthony Joshua. But the backer for that fight, Skill Challenge Entertainment, was apparently unable to deliver the funds. Unlike Alalshikh, Arum said, Skill Challenge was simply a middleman.
“Of course, of course, the middleman, even if the middleman came from Saudi Arabia, like Skill Challenge, they can make a deal but then they’d have to go and get the funds from the sovereign fund,” Arum said. “And maybe yes they did it, when Usyk fought Joshua the second time, but you know, that wasn’t always going to be the case. Now with Prince Turki who controls the sovereign fund as far as entertainment, you’re not dealing with the middlemen, you’re dealing with the source.”
Sean Nam is the author of Murder on Federal Street: Tyrone Everett, the Black Mafia, and the Last Golden Age of Philadelphia Boxing.